So far foreign tourists require a special permit from the home ministry to visit such locations.
New Delhi: The Union home ministry is all set to relax the travel restrictions for foreign tourists, except those from Pakistan and China, to visit remote areas in states like Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and parts of Himachal Pradesh, among others.
So far foreign tourists require a special permit from the home ministry to visit such locations. The Centre is now planning to relax some provisions of Restricted Area Permit system, and allow foreigners to visit such places and in turn give tourism a further boost.
According to the MHA, discussions are being held with various state governments to relax the Restricted Area Permit norms, which have been in existence for over 50 years, in some areas. The MHA and other stakeholders have identified the possible places where restrictions on the movement of foreign tourists can be relaxed further. But tourists from Pakistan and China will be kept out of these relaxed norms.
This will help both the Centre and states generate extra revenue with the growth of tourism. As per the existing provisions of the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order 1958, some areas which are between the “Inner Line” and the international border in a few states are identified as protected areas, and foreigners require special permits from the home ministry to travel there.
Foreign tourists, except those from Bhutan, who want to visit protected or restricted areas need a special permit from a competent authority with the power to issue such permits. In cases such powers are not granted to a competent authority, the powers lie with the MHA.
As of now, most northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, as well as Sikkim, fall under this category; while some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir are also out of bounds for foreign tourists.
As part of its bid to promote tourism, the government at times exempts some areas which foreigners want to visit. For diplomats and United Nations personnel, as well as the staff of some international organisations with valid diplomatic or official passports, these special permits to visit restricted areas are granted by the external affairs ministry.
However, for citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan, no special permit can be issued without prior security clearance from the home ministry.